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|V for Vendetta|
V for Vendetta collected edition cover, art by David Lloyd
Vertigo (DC Comics)
Date(s) of publication
|March 1982 – May 1989|
|V for Vendetta|
V for Vendetta collected edition cover, art by David Lloyd
Vertigo (DC Comics)
Date(s) of publication
|March 1982 – May 1989|
V for Vendetta is a graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by David Lloyd (with additional art by Tony Weare), set in a dystopian near-future United Kingdom imagined from the 1980s to the late 1990s. The book is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics. The story depicts a future history of the United Kingdom in the 1990s preceded by a nuclear war in the 1980s, which has left much of the world destroyed, though most of the damage to the country is indirect, via floods and crop failures. In this future, a fascist party called Norsefire has exterminated its opponents in concentration camps and now rules the country as a police state. V, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent, and intentionally theatrical campaign to murder his former captors, bring down the government, and convince the people to rule themselves, while inspiring a young woman, Evey Hammond, to be his protégé.
The first episodes of V for Vendetta originally appeared in black-and-white between 1982 and 1985, in Warrior, a British anthology comic published by Quality Communications. The strip was one of the least popular in that title; editor/publisher Dez Skinn remarked, "If I’d have given each character their own title, the failures would have certainly outweighed the successes, with the uncompromising “V for Vendetta” probably being an early casualty. But with five or six strips an issue, regular [readers] only needed two or three favorites to justify their buying the title."
When the publishers cancelled Warrior in 1985 (with two completed issues unpublished due to the cancellation), several companies attempted to convince Moore and Lloyd to let them publish and complete the story. In 1988, DC Comics published a ten-issue series that reprinted the Warrior stories in colour, then continued the series to completion. The first new material appeared in issue No. 7, which included the unpublished episodes that would have appeared in Warrior No. 27 and No. 28. Tony Weare drew one chapter ("Vincent") and contributed additional art to two others ("Valerie" and "The Vacation"); Steve Whitaker and Siobhan Dodds worked as colourists on the entire series.
The series, including Moore's "Behind the Painted Smile" essay and two "interludes" outside the central continuity, then appeared in collected form as a trade paperback, published in the US by DC's Vertigo imprint (ISBN 0-930289-52-8) and in the UK by Titan Books (ISBN 1-85286-291-2).
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)|
David Lloyd's paintings for V for Vendetta in Warrior originally appeared in black-and-white. The DC Comics version published the artwork "colourised" in pastels. Lloyd has stated that he had always intended the artwork to appear in colour, and that the initial publication in black and white occurred for financial reasons because colour would have cost too much (although Warrior editor/publisher Dez Skinn expressed surprise at this information, as he had commissioned the strip in black and white and never intended Warrior to feature any interior colour, irrespective of expense).
In writing V for Vendetta, Moore drew upon an idea for a strip titled The Doll, which he had submitted in 1975 at the age of 22 to DC Thomson. In "Behind the Painted Smile", Moore revealed that the idea was rejected as DC Thomson balked at the idea of a "transsexual terrorist". Years later, Skinn allegedly invited Moore to create a dark mystery strip with artist David Lloyd. He actually asked David Lloyd to recreate something similar to their popular Marvel UK Night Raven strip, a story with an enigmatic masked vigilante set in the United States in the 1930s. Lloyd asked for writer Alan Moore to join him, and the setting developed through their discussions, moving from the 1930s United States to a near-future Britain. As the setting progressed, so did the character's development; once conceived as a "realistic" gangster-age version of Night-Raven, he became, first, a policeman rebelling against the totalitarian state he served, then a heroic anarchist.
Moore and Lloyd conceived the series as a dark adventure-strip influenced by British comic characters of the 1960s, as well as by Night Raven, which Lloyd had previously worked on with writer Steve Parkhouse. Editor Dez Skinn came up with the name "Vendetta" over lunch with his work colleague Graham Marsh — but quickly rejected it as sounding too Italian (in fact the word "vendetta" is Italian in origin). Then V for Vendetta emerged, putting the emphasis on "V" rather than "Vendetta". David Lloyd developed the idea of dressing V as Guy Fawkes after previous designs followed the conventional superhero look.
During the preparation of the story, Moore made a list of what he wanted to bring into the plot, which he reproduced in "Behind the Painted Smile":
Orwell. Huxley. Thomas Disch. Judge Dredd. Harlan Ellison's "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, Catman and The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by the same author. Vincent Price's Dr. Phibes and Theatre of Blood. David Bowie. The Shadow. Night Raven. Batman. Fahrenheit 451. The writings of the New Worlds school of science fiction. Max Ernst's painting "Europe After the Rain". Thomas Pynchon. The atmosphere of British Second World War films. The Prisoner. Robin Hood. Dick Turpin...
The political climate of Britain in the early 1980s also influenced the work, with Moore positing that Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government would "obviously lose the 1983 elections", and that an incoming Michael Foot-led Labour government, committed to complete nuclear disarmament, would allow the United Kingdom to escape relatively unscathed after a limited nuclear war. However, Moore felt that fascists would quickly subvert a post-holocaust Britain. Moore's scenario remains untested. Addressing historical developments when DC reissued the work, he noted:
Naïveté can also be detected in my supposition that it would take something as melodramatic as a near-miss nuclear conflict to nudge Britain towards fascism... The simple fact that much of the historical background of the story proceeds from a predicted Conservative defeat in the 1983 General Election should tell you how reliable we were in our roles as Cassandras.
The February 1999 issue of The Comics Journal ran a poll on "The Top 100 (English-Language) Comics of the Century": V for Vendetta reached 83rd place.
On Guy Fawkes Night in 1997 London, a financially desperate 16-year-old, Evey Hammond, sexually solicits men who are actually members of the state secret police, called "the Finger." Preparing to rape and kill her, the Fingermen are dispatched by V, a cloaked anarchist wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, who remotely detonates explosives at the Houses of Parliament before bringing Evey to his contraband-filled underground lair, the "Shadow Gallery". Evey tells V her life story, which reveals that a global nuclear war in the late 1980s has since triggered the rise of England's fascist, white supremacist government, Norsefire.
Meanwhile, Eric Finch, a veteran detective in charge of the regular police force—"the Nose"—begins investigating V's terrorist activities. Finch often communicates with Norsefire's other intelligence departments, including "the Finger," led by Derek Almond, and "the Head", embodied by Adam Susan: the reclusive government Leader, who obsessively oversees the government's Fate computer system. Finch's case thickens when V mentally deranges Lewis Prothero, a propaganda-broadcasting radio personality; forces the suicide of Bishop Anthony Lilliman, a paedophile priest; and prepares to murder Dr. Delia Surridge, a medical researcher who once had a romance with Finch. Finch suddenly discovers that all three of V's targets used to work at a former Norsefire "resettlement camp" near Larkhill. That night, V kills both Almond and Surridge, but Surridge has left a diary revealing all three targeted victims' histories with V at the Larkhill camp. Apparently, V—an inmate and victim of Surridge's cruel medical experiments—had used fertilizers and grease solvent he had hoarded from working in the gardens to design explosives, mustard gas, and napalm, which he later used to destroy and flee the camp. V has since been eliminating the camp's former officers to keep his true identity hidden. Finch reports these findings to Susan, who suspects that this "vendetta" is actually just a cover for V, who, he worries, may be plotting an even bigger terrorist attack.
Four months later, V breaks into Jordan Tower, the home of Norsefire's propaganda department, "the Mouth"—led by Roger Dascombe—to broadcast a speech that calls on the people to resist the government. V escapes using a diversion that results in Dascombe's death. Finch is soon introduced to Peter Creedy, the crooked new head of the Finger, who provokes Finch to strike him and thus get sent on a forced vacation. All this time, Evey has moved on with her life, becoming romantically involved with a much older man and petty criminal named Gordon. Evey and Gordon unknowingly cross paths with Rose Almond, the widow of the recently killed Derek. After Derek's death, Rose reluctantly began a relationship with Dascombe, but now, with both of her lovers murdered, Rose is forced to perform demoralizing burlesque work, increasing her hatred of the unsupportive government.
When a Scottish gangster named Ally Harper murders Gordon, Evey attempts to retaliate during a meeting between Harper and Creedy, the latter of whom is buying the support of Harper's thugs in preparation for a coup d'état. Evey is arrested before she can shoot Harper, but is mistakenly accused of trying to assassinate Creedy. In her cell, amid interrogation and torture, Evey finds an old letter from an inmate named Valerie Page, a film actress who was imprisoned and executed for being a lesbian. Evey's interrogator finally gives her a choice of collaboration or death; inspired by Valerie, Evey refuses to give in, and, expecting to be executed, is instead told that she is free. Stunned, Evey learns that her supposed imprisonment is in fact a hoax constructed by V so that she could experience an ordeal similar to the one that shaped him at Larkhill. He reveals that Valerie was another Larkhill prisoner who died in the cell next to his and that the letter is not a fake. Evey forgives V, who has hacked into the government's Fate computer system and started emotionally manipulating Susan with mind games. Consequently, Susan, whose only sexual feelings lie with the computer, is beginning to descend into madness.
The following 5 November (1998), V blows up the Post Office Tower and Jordan Tower, effectively shutting down three government agencies: the Eye, the Ear, and the Mouth. Creedy's men and Ally's associated street gangs violently suppress the subsequent wave of revolutionary fervor from the public. V notes to Evey that he has not yet achieved what he calls the "Land of Do-as-You-Please", meaning a functional anarchistic society, and considers the current chaotic situation an interim period of "Land of Take-What-You-Want". Finch has been mysteriously absent and his young assistant, Dominic, one day realises that V has been influencing the Fate computer all along, which would explain V's foresight. All the while, Finch has been travelling to the abandoned site of Larkhill, where he takes LSD to conjure up memories of his own devastated past and to put his mind in the role of a prisoner of Larkhill, like V, to help give him an intuitive understanding of V's experiences. Returning to London, Finch suddenly deduces that V's lair is inside the abandoned Victoria Station, which he enters, shooting V repeatedly, though V claims he cannot be killed since he is only an idea and that "ideas are bulletproof". Regardless, V is indeed mortally wounded and he returns to the Shadow Gallery deeper within, dying in Evey's arms. Evey considers unmasking V, but decides not to and instead assumes V's identity, donning one of his spare Fawkes costumes.
In the meantime, Creedy has been pressuring Susan to appear in public, hoping to leave him exposed. Sure enough, as Susan stops to shake hands with Rose during a parade, she shoots him in the head. Despite V's death, his manipulations are already set in motion, resulting in Creedy, Harper, and the head of the Eye all killing each other. This leaves Finch as the only survivor among the top government officials, but he freely abandons his post, largely due to his LSD-influenced change of outlook. Next, Evey appears to a crowd, dressed as V, announcing the destruction of 10 Downing Street the following day and telling the crowd they must "...choose what comes next. Lives of your own, or a return to chains", whereupon a general insurrection begins. Evey destroys 10 Downing Street by blowing up an Underground train containing V's body, in the style of an explosive Viking funeral. She abducts Dominic, apparently to train him as her successor. The book ends with Finch quietly observing the chaos raging in the city and walking down an abandoned motorway whose lights have all gone out.
V is a masked anarchist who seeks to systematically kill the leaders of Norsefire, a fascist dictatorship ruling a dystopian United Kingdom. He is well-versed in the arts of explosives, subterfuge, and computer hacking, and has a vast literary, cultural and philosophical intellect. V is the only survivor of an experiment in which four dozen prisoners were given injections of a compound called Batch 5. The compound caused vast cellular anomalies that eventually killed all of the subjects except V, who developed advanced strength, reflexes, endurance and pain tolerance. Throughout the novel, V almost always wears his trademark Guy Fawkes mask, a shoulder-length wig of straight dark-brown hair and an outfit consisting of black gloves, tunic, trousers and boots. When not wearing the mask, his face is not shown. When outside the Shadow Gallery, he completes this ensemble with a circa-17th century conical hat and floor-length cloak. His weapons of choice include daggers, explosives and tear gas.
The book suggests that V took his name from the Roman numeral "V", the number of the room he was held in during the experiment.
Evey "Eve" Hammond is a sixteen-year-old (seventeen-year-old as of Book 2) whom V saves from the Fingermen. The novel details her life's story: how she lost every person she ever loved due to the Norsefire party and its criminal connections, how she met V and grew to understand him and, finally, how she became his successor.
Adam Susan, also known as the "Leader", is the dictator of the Norsefire Party and its functions, although some of his power is ceremonial. Susan is in love with Fate (a computer system) and prefers its cold, mathematical companionship to that of his fellow human beings. Susan also expresses a solipsist belief that he and God (referring to the Fate computer) are the only truly "real" beings in existence, though he also believes that he must devote his life to leading his people. He is an adherent of fascism and racist notions of "purity", and genuinely believes that civil liberties are dangerous and unnecessary. He appears to truly care for his people, however, and it is implied that his embrace of fascism was a response to his own loneliness. Before the War, he was a Chief Constable. He is assassinated by Rose Almond, the widow of one of his former lieutenants.
Eric Finch is the chief of New Scotland Yard and Minister of Investigations, which has become known as the Nose. Finch is a pragmatist who sides with the government because he would rather serve in a world of order than one of chaos. He is nevertheless honourable and decent, and the Leader trusts him as reliable and lacking ambition. He eventually achieves his own anagnorisis and self-knowledge, expressing sorrow over his complicity with Norsefire's atrocities.
The series was Moore's first use of the densely detailed narrative and multiple plot lines that would feature heavily in Watchmen. Panel backgrounds are often crammed with clues and red herrings; literary allusions and wordplay are prominent in the chapter titles and in V's speech (which almost always takes the form of iambic pentameter, the line most commonly associated with William Shakespeare).
V reads Evey to sleep with The Magic Faraway Tree. This series provides the source of "The Land of Do-As-You-Please" and "The Land of Take-What-You-Want" alluded to throughout the series. Another cultural reference rings out – mainly in the theatrical version: "Remember, remember, the Fifth of November: the gunpowder treason and plot. I know of no reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot". These lines allude directly to the story of Guy Fawkes and his participation in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605.
The two conflicting political viewpoints of anarchism and fascism permeate the story. The Norsefire regime shares every facet of fascist ideology: it is highly xenophobic, rules the nation through both fear and force, and worships strong leadership (i.e. Führerprinzip). As in most fascist regimes, there are several different types of state organisations which engage in power struggles with each other yet obey the same leader. V, meanwhile, ultimately strives for a "free society" ordered by its own consent.
V himself remains something of an enigma whose history is only hinted at. The bulk of the story is told from the viewpoints of other characters: V's admirer and apprentice Evey, a 16-year-old factory worker; Eric Finch, a world-weary and pragmatic policeman who is hunting V; and several contenders for power within the fascist party. V's destructive acts are morally ambiguous, and a central theme of the series is the rationalisation of atrocities in the name of a higher goal, whether it is stability or freedom.
Moore stated in an interview:
|“||The central question is, is this guy right? Or is he mad? What do you, the reader, think about this? Which struck me as a properly anarchist solution. I didn't want to tell people what to think, I just wanted to tell people to think and consider some of these admittedly extreme little elements, which nevertheless do recur fairly regularly throughout human history.||”|
Moore has never clarified V's precise background, beyond stating "that V isn't Evey's father, Whistler's Mother, or Charley's Aunt"; he does point out that V's identity is never revealed in the book. The ambiguity of the V character is a running theme through the work, which leaves readers to determine for themselves whether V is sane or psychotic, hero or villain. Before donning the Guy Fawkes mask herself, Evey comes to the conclusion that V's identity is unimportant compared to the role he plays, making his character itself the idea he embodies.
The first filming of an adaptation of V for Vendetta for the screen involved one of the scenes in the documentary feature film The Mindscape of Alan Moore, shot in early 2002. The dramatisation contains no dialogue by the main character, but uses the Voice of Fate as an introduction.
On 17 March 2005 Warner Brothers released a feature-film adaptation of V for Vendetta, directed by James McTeigue (first assistant director on The Matrix films) from a screenplay by the Wachowskis. Natalie Portman stars as Evey Hammond and Hugo Weaving as V.
Alan Moore distanced himself from the film, as he has with every screen adaptation of his works to date[update]. He ended co-operation with his publisher, DC Comics, after its corporate parent, Warner Bros., failed to retract statements about Moore's supposed endorsement of the movie. After reading the script, Moore remarked:
|“||[The movie] has been "turned into a Bush-era parable by people too timid to set a political satire in their own country.... It's a thwarted and frustrated and largely impotent American liberal fantasy of someone with American liberal values standing up against a state run by neoconservatives – which is not what the comic V for Vendetta was about. It was about fascism, it was about anarchy, it was about England.||”|
He later adds that if the Wachowskis had wanted to protest about what was going on in the United States, then they should have used a political narrative that directly addressed the issues of the USA, similar to what Moore had done before with Britain. The film changes the original message by arguably having changed "V" into a freedom fighter instead of an anarchist. An interview with producer Joel Silver suggests that the change may not have been conscious; he identifies the V of the comics as a clear-cut "superhero... a masked avenger who pretty much saves the world," a simplification that goes against Moore's own statements about V's role in the story.
|“||It's a terrific film. The most extraordinary thing about it for me was seeing scenes that I'd worked on and crafted for maximum effect in the book translated to film with the same degree of care and effect. The "transformation" scene between Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving is just great. If you happen to be one of those people who admires the original so much that changes to it will automatically turn you off, then you may dislike the film—but if you enjoyed the original and can accept an adaptation that is different to its source material but equally as powerful, then you'll be as impressed as I was with it.||”|
Anonymous, an Internet-based group, has adopted the Guy Fawkes mask as their symbol (in reference to an Internet meme). Members wore such masks, for example, during Project Chanology's protests against the Church of Scientology in 2008. Alan Moore had this to say about the use of the Guy Fawkes motif adopted from his comic V for Vendetta, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly:
|“||I was also quite heartened the other day when watching the news to see that there were demonstrations outside the Scientology headquarters over here, and that they suddenly flashed to a clip showing all these demonstrators wearing V for Vendetta Guy Fawkes masks. That pleased me. That gave me a warm little glow.||”|
During the Occupy Wall Street and other ongoing Occupy protests, the mask appeared internationally as a symbol of popular revolution. Artist David Lloyd stated: "The Guy Fawkes mask has now become a common brand and a convenient placard to use in protest against tyranny – and I'm happy with people using it, it seems quite unique, an icon of popular culture being used this way."
On 17 November 2012 police officials in Dubai warned against wearing Guy Fawkes masks painted with the colours of the UAE flag during any celebration associated with the UAE National Day (2 December), declaring such use an illegal act after masks went on sale in online shops for 50 DHS.
The entire V story has appeared collected in paperback (ISBN 0-930289-52-8) and hardback (ISBN 1-4012-0792-8) form. In August 2009 DC published a slipcased Absolute Edition (ISBN 1-4012-2361-3); this includes newly coloured "silent art" pages (full-page panels containing no dialogue) from the series' original run, which have not appeared in any previous collected edition.
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